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Brian Joubert Grabs Lead While Savchenko and Szolkowy repeat as World Pairs Champions

Brian Joubert of France grabbed the lead ahead of American Evan Lysacek and Canada’s Patrick Chan in the men’s short program at the 2009 World Championships last night at Los Angeles’ Staples Center.

Meanwhile, the event’s first medals were awarded in pairs. Despite a fall, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany repated as World champions. China’s Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang were the silver medalists while Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov of Russia earned bronze medals.

THE MEN

Joubert had two slight miscues in his program, which earned 84.40 points (46.00 element score/38.40 program component score). “I didn’t have enough speed,” the Frenchman said, referring to his error on the opening combination, a quad-triple toe loop. He put down his hand on the first jump and stepped out of the second jump.

“After this, I just kept going and tried to give 100 percent on every element and on the components,” he added. “After the Europeans, I’ve worked very hard on my footwork and spins, so even with this big mistake on the jump combination, I still got a high technical score.”

Skating to “Rise” by Safri Duo, Joubert recovered nicely from his mistakes to land a high triple Axel and a triple Lutz. For his footwork, Joubert earned a level three for both his circular and the straight line steps. He earned a level four for two of his spins.

The reigning European champion said he is looking forward to the long program portion of the event (being contested today) in which he will skate last. “I am strong and ready to compete,” he said. “I will have to fight and I will.”

Hometown favorite Lysacek, who lives and trains in Los Angeles, put out a strong performance to “Bolero.” The two-time World bronze medalist (2005-06) scored 82.70 points (44.40/38.30).

“I’ve just been spending the last two weeks here in LA trying to stay calm and keep consistent training. I want to not only represent my country well, but I represent my city well, too,” he said. “A lot of my friends and family are here and some of my friends haven’t seen me skate live.”

He nailed a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a triple flip and showed fast spins and step sequences that were graded level three and four.

When he finished his performance, he pumped his fists and the crowd rose to give him a standing ovation. “It’s been a long season for me,” he said. “Once the hard elements were out of the way, I started celebrating as the rest of the program went on. I really like this program. I love this building. I felt a lot of good energy.”

Chan’s exquisite routine to “Tango de los Exilados.” He scored 82.55 points (45.60/36.95). Chan’s program featured a triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe loop combination, a triple Lutz as well as three level-four spins and level-three footwork.

“I think I came in a little bit more nervous than usual, because I was hoping to skate better than I did last year at the Worlds. When I stepped out in the warm-up it felt really good, because it was LA and the crowd was great,” the two-time Canadian champion said. “There are a lot of Canadian fans. It felt like at home.

“Like Evan said, it was great to have the two elements done at the beginning and really a big relief. I really enjoyed the performance and gave it all my best and I had a lot.”

Tomas Verner (CZE) landed a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination but stepped out of his triple Axel to come in fourth (80.36 points).

Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) is currently in fifth place. His routine included a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination and a triple flip (79.35 points).

Samuel Contesti (ITA) finished sixth with another clean program that was highlighted by a triple Axel, a triple Lutz-triple toe and a triple loop (78.50 points).

Brandon Mroz skated well in his program set to "Till Eulenspiegel" program. While he lacked the speed of some of the top skaters, he still managed to earn a season best score of 76.10, good enough for eighth place. He landed a clean triple Axel and nailed a triple Lutz-triple toe combination.

Reigning U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott has some problems with his “Adagio” routine. He put a hand down on his triple toe and stepped out of an attempted triple Axel (and was given for a double). He placed 10th place with a score of 72.15.

THE PAIRS

Savchenko and Szolkowy earned 131.18 points (68.10 element score/64.08 program component score) with a competition mark of 203.48, which was a personal best. “It was a perfect feeling to win a second time,” Szolkowy said. “Our skating was as good today as it was yesterday.”

Skating to “Schindler’s List” and “Adagio,” Savchenko and Szolkowy nailed a beautiful triple toe-triple toe sequence followed by a high throw triple flip and side-by-side triple Salchows.

The Germans went on to produce difficult lifts, a triple twist and level-four spins and spiral. When they landed a throw triple Salchow on the last beat of their music, the crowd cheered loudly and rose for a standing ovation.

They did have one miscue: Szolkowy fell during the footwork. “Yes, we had a little mistake, he said. “I struggled with a step sequence, but in the end it was good enough. I can’t say what happened. I just lost my weight (balance) somewhere. It was an easy fall, so it didn’t hurt, and it wasn’t a problem to get back to the program.”

Zhang and Zhang scored 119.10 (62.58/57.52) and moved up from third to second to claim their third World silver medal with 186.52 points, edging out Kavaguti and Smirnov by just 0.13 of a point. “We are very happy today. The skating was so-so, but with second place we are very happy because we’ve been second many times,” Hao Zhang joked.

Zhang and Zhang landed a throw triple Salchow and loop, a big triple twist, difficult spins, steps and spirals in their routine to “The Yellow River Piano Concerto,” but Dan Zhang struggled with the solo jumps. She stumbled on their double Axel-triple toe loop combination and then doubled a Salchow.

“Since we’ve placed second so many times, there are many points we need to improve on, so we’ll continue to work on those points,” Dan Zhang said when asked what they need to do to win gold.

Skating to “I Pagcliacci,” Kawaguchi and Smirnov went for a triple toe-triple toe sequence, but he doubled the second jump. They hit the next element, a triple twist, but then Kawaguchi took a hard fall on the throw quadruple Salchow. “I didn’t break anything, so I just continued. It wasn’t a catastrophe but it’s really hurting. Tomorrow it may be bruised,” Kawaguchi said.

They finished the program without any further major mistakes and reeled off a Axel Lasso lift, a hand-to-hip lift, a toe Lasso lift, as well as side-by-side double Axels and a throw triple loop. The European silver medalists from St. Petersburg were awarded a level four for their lifts and the spins and a level three for the footwork and the death spiral.

Kawaguchi and Smirnov score of 117.45 (59.81/58.64) was a personal best. They finished the competition with 186.39 points. “We won our first medal at World Championships, so we are pretty happy. Getting the bronze gives us big confidence for next season,” Kawaguchi said.

“We have improved since last year,” Smirnov added. “Last year we were fourth, now we are third.”

Qing Pang and Jian Tong (CHN) moved up from fifth to fourth with a solid program that contained excellent throws and lifts, but they made errors on the solo jumps (181.08 points).

Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov (RUS) finished fifth. They hit a triple toe-double toe combination, a throw triple loop and triple twist, but she under-rotated the triple Salchow and touched down with her hand on the throw triple Salchow (177.89 points).

Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov (UKR) came in sixth at 175.61 points. They impressed with high throw jumps and effortless looking lifts as well as with a triple toe-triple toe sequence, but he doubled aSalchow.

Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison, last year's bronze medalists, finished seventh overall. They were in seventh after the short program. A costly error kept them there: Dubé failed to do her second jump on a double Axel-double Axel sequence to open the free skate.

Two American pairs teams made their debuts at the World Championships. Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett placed ninth. They skated a superb program and Denney, 15, clearly enjoyed the experience. Her wide smile charmed the audinece which gave the duo a standing ovcation. When they finished skating, she soaked in the moment, slowly backstroking off the ice as she took in the crowd's response. Meanwhile, their head coach, Jim Peterson, was excited at the performance as well. When they completed their program, he jumped in up and down and pounded his fits on the boards

Two-time and reigning U.S. champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker were 11th.


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